Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Events Around the Globe Can Affect Your Business

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I never expected the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to affect my business. Too far away from my U.S. offices.

I never expected the tornado and its devastation in Joplin, MO, to affect my business. Too far away from my offices in Washington DC and Arizona.

I never expected a volcano going off in Iceland to affect my business. Yes, I go to Iceland once or twice a year to give seminars. But the timing would have to be oh so precise....

Well, all three events DID affect my business. And in vastly different ways.

1) My client, Acura of Glendale (CA), had to suspend public relations (fortunately, only for two months) when they weren't getting any new cars or financing deals to promote. Why? Most Acuras that are sold in the U.S. are actually made in the U.S. But there are some little parts that are made in Japan. And without those parts...there are no new cars.

2) Life Cube Inc. started talking to us about doing their social media work about a month ago. Life Cube is a quickly deployable, portable shelter that can be enormously helpful in providing life-saving shelter and supporting on-the-ground operations by aid workers.

But the day after the Joplin, MO, tornado, Life Cube called us and said-start now! Here's the signed agreement and the check is in the mail (and it really was). We dropped everything and immediately set up their social media accounts, started Tweeting and obtaining significant "follows" for their accounts.

3) I was scheduled to go to Iceland to speak for the European Women Inventors & Innovators Network International Conference. But on May 21, three days before my trip, the Grimsvotn volcano started erupting and the Keflavik Airport outside of Reykjavik was closed. The conference, expecting more than 300 attendees from throughout Europe, was postponed until September.

So what's the lesson in all of this?
- Be aware of what is happening in the news-for yourself and for your clients. How can you localize and personalize a story for a client? The media loves local interest stories. How can you use this to make your social media more relevant and timely-a vital part of attracting attention on social media.

- I found out my ACURA client was "back in business" with new financing deals by calling her. She had not had time to call me and gear her PR back up. So stay in touch (without being annoying) and be there to help.

- After a day or two, I got in touch with the Icelandic conference organizers and offered to share my speech presentation and hand-outs with the people who WERE going to attend. I slightly changed the presentation, which was on Building a Brand on a Sustainable Business. I used it as an education/To Do piece that, now they had over three months to build their brand on sustainability, what steps they could take so it would be strong and powerful by the rescheduled date in September.

Yes, indeed, it's summer and the perfect season to make lemonade out of lemons!

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Targeting the RIGHT Audience for Outreach

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A good thing about the Oprah show being over, to a publicist, is we have always heard from clients "I want to be on Oprah."

Well, that was easier said than done. Yes, there would be great benefit to many clients to be on Oprah. But it wasn't always the best way to spend your money, to have your PR firm spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make this happen!

I remember when I had a client of nurse-owned home health care agencies across the state of California. They wanted to be on Oprah (that's a given) and CBS, and written up in USA Today, and Time Magazine. (I'm not sure how they came up with that list.)

But when we scheduled a half-day meeting to brainstorm a Communications Plan, we took a hard look at their TARGET audience. Their primary audience was case managers at hospitals, people who would recommend an agency when someone was discharged from the hospital and needed home health care services.

Knowing your target audience is so vital. Do hospital case managers watch Oprah? Maybe. Do they read USA Today and Time Magazine? Maybe.

But we know they read the stories in the industry publications geared towards nurses and case managers.

It may not be as exciting at the dinner table to say to your family, "I was featured in Case Manager Today magazine this month" as it is to say "I was quoted in USA Today." But it will be more effective to grow your business! And it's probably just as much fun at the dinner table to say "I got five new clients today" - even though you weren't even on Oprah.

So the basic lessons here are:
1. Develop a Communications Plan, which will include your target audiences.

2. Decide the best way to reach those audiences.

3. When you do get media coverage, leverage it through reproduction, social media, posting on websites, etc., so it has a LONG shelf life.

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